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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Unlocking meaningful moments at Aspen Ridge Special Care Center

Oct 04, 2023 02:17PM ● By Heidi Pool

It’s been nearly two years since Leo made the heart-wrenching decision to place his wife of 56 years, Mary, at Aspen Ridge Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Grand Junction. 

“Driving away from her that first day was the most painful thing I’ve ever done,” he recalled. 

But knowing Mary is in capable hands brings Leo great comfort. 

“I believe she has a much better quality of life at Aspen Ridge than she would have at home with me,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the phenomenal care she receives.”

Established in 2004, Aspen Ridge currently houses 40 residents, with a capacity of about 50. Its classic, inviting furnishings evoke an elegant manor. Stone fireplaces in the two living areas, as well as paned windows punctuated with elegant fabric valances, contribute to an overall cozy atmosphere. Nostalgic music plays in the background, and residents are welcome to move freely throughout the facility at any time, including out to an enclosed courtyard that boasts a front-and-center view of the Bookcliffs.

Honoring life stories

The foundation of Aspen Ridge’s memory care is their Meaningful Moments® program. 

“We work with the family of every new resident to develop a personal history that’s incorporated into their care plan,” said Community Resource Director Ivone Rodriguez. 

The underlying principle of Meaningful Moments is those suffering from dementia haven’t lost the capacity to experience joy, and are still able to lead meaningful lives. Staff members learn everything there is to know about each resident—their passions, achievements, careers, family, hobbies and interests. This unique approach helps bond caregivers to every resident, enabling them to see beyond the person’s current condition and recognize them for the extraordinary individual they are. 

“It’s all about honoring the life stories of our residents,” Rodriguez explained.

Staff members also undergo extensive training about dementia itself: how it affects an individual’s brain and behaviors, attitudes towards caregivers and even eating preferences. In Mary’s case, dementia has caused her to become profoundly combative, and Leo is consistently impressed by her caregivers’ patience. 

“They approach Mary’s behavior in a nonconfrontational way, and are very skilled at diverting her attention,” he said.

Engaging activities

Aspen Ridge residents enjoy a host of activities like chair yoga, table volleyball, arts and crafts, cooking classes, therapy dog sessions, movie nights and a weekly live performance from local entertainers. A favorite among residents and staff alike is a visit from the animals at Harmony Acres Equestrian Center. 

“We’ve had alpacas, miniature horses, rabbits, a baby burro and even a diaper-wearing goat,” said Rodriguez. 

For Leo, the knowledge that Mary is where she needs to be has greatly reduced his own stress. 

“Everyone at Aspen Ridge has been very kind to me and my family. And the quality of attention and care Mary receives is deeply reassuring,” he said. 

How to choose a care facility

While most of us hope we’ll never need to wrestle with the difficult decision of whether or not to place a loved one in a care home, 1 in 9 persons aged 65 and over has Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. If, like Leo, you come to the realization you can no longer properly care for your loved one at home, Rodriguez offers these suggestions when evaluating facilities:

  • Pay attention to how you feel when you enter the care home. Are the staff members friendly and welcoming?
  • Observe how staff members interact with residents. Is there a genuine rapport between them?
  • Do you feel comfortable leaving your loved one in their care? Do you believe you can go home and rest easy, knowing you don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re being taken care of?
  • Think of your loved one’s needs, rather than your own preconceived notions. While many family members believe their loved one would feel more comfortable in a private room, the reality is that individuals with Alzheimer’s often wake up in the middle of the night and become frightened if they find themselves alone. Having a roommate can oftentimes quell these fears.

For Leo, the knowledge that Mary is where she needs to be has greatly reduced his own stress.

“Everyone at Aspen Ridge has been very kind to me and my family. And the quality of attention and care Mary receives is deeply reassuring,” he said.

Contact Aspen Ridge at 970-254-1233, or stop by 622 28 1/4 Road, Grand Junction.

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